This Sunday’s Australian Open Final brings us the season’s first epic Murray Djokovic battle. The immediate future of world mens tennis stands to be defined in this contest. Both players have worked themselves into world class form and stand out as the champions of champions. Every battle for the worlds top titles this season will carry a unique thrill; an anticipation rare in world sport; if and only if it’s impossible to predict who is to come out on top.
For many Djokovic is the favourite this weekend and for good reason. He is playing the tennis of his life and his mental strength is such that he never knows when he’s beaten. This is the popular view, but a dominant Novak Djokovic ruins the script and Murray cannot be so easily discounted. His mental strength may not be as natural as Djokovic’s but is growing through hard earned experience. He has struggled and failed more in his quest to reach the pinnacle they now share which has transformed his natural pessimism into a stubbornness; a good old fashioned Scottish cussedness.
It’s risky to predict who will come out on top in a match that is likely to be long and swing one way and then another. And my prediction that the frowning and determined Andy Murray will triumph over the confident and charming Djokovic is counter to mainstream opinion. But provided this contest is as close as predicted there is good reason for me to stick my neck out, and not just because the unexpected result is the best for tennis.
Listening to the players comments prior to the final gives us a pointer to the factors that could decide the contest. Murray, after his five set semi final win against Federer said on BBC Sport;
[It took] huge mental and physical effort and to come back after losing the fourth set the way that I did I think was a good effort … there are a lot of tough points, he’s very aggressive so he makes you do a lot of running, so physically it was a tough match.
I really like this, he is talking about winning tough matches and describing the ‘huge’ mental and physical effort he was able to summon to do this. He knows he will have to repeat this if he is to beat Djokovic and this experience will give him the confidence he can. He will expect a tough match and expect to bring out a ‘Huge mental and physical effort’ in response.
He goes on to describe the mental processes he used to get himself back into the game after the crushing loss of the fourth set in which he’d been serving for the match.
[I thought] Just try & win don’t let the match get away from you and I started the 5th set very well … I think when you get into position to serve for the match and you don’t get it sometimes you have to remember yourself what got you there and go back to what you were doing and that’s what I did.
His explanation tells us that instead of regretting his mistakes he focused on his strengths. This shows he is developing genuine mental toughness. Champions don’t buckle in intensely competitive environments because they never lose sight of their own ability and believe that it will carry them through.
Djokovic though has a mental strength that is becoming inseparable from his identity. He is immense. I am confident he will go into this match believing he will win and knowing that he will have periods where he will be under the cosh. How he reacts in these moments is becoming his trade mark. He seems to adopt a ‘nothing to lose’ mindset and plays freely, without inhibition. In his toughest moments when he is staring defeat in the face this mental tactic allows him to play exhibition tennis and turn the momentum back his way.
He hasn’t had to employ this manoeuvre so far in Australia because his passage to the final has been so smooth as he has swept all before him. He has played tennis at the highest level and he knows it. As quoted by Piers Newbury on BBC sport after his demolition of world No. Four David Ferrer;
I played incredible tennis … I felt very confident and comfortable from the start. It was definitely one of the best performances I ever had in my career
Rob Gillett on ITN carried more quotes;
I was aware of David’s qualities. I wanted to be aggressive on the court and this was definitely one of the best matches of my career … it can only do positive things to my confidence. Definitely at this stage of a tournament, playing semi-finals against the world number four, somebody that I have respect for, great competitor, and being able to perform as well as I did, it’s incredible … I have a great feeling about myself on the court at this moment.
And it’s in these quotes that I think we find the reason that Murray will win. Djokovic’s language is all about feeling comfortable. His kinaesthetic sense is dominant and he has felt ‘comfortable’ in every match leading up to the final. Murray in contrast has had to fight harder, particularly in his last match against Federer.
This experience has prepared Murray better for a real scrap. If he can turn the game into brawl and take Djokovic out of his comfort zone he has the advantage. He will have to keep him there. He will have to deal with the exhibition tennis he can pull out the locker at the toughest moments and take the smile off his face.
If he does this he can win and the future of tennis between two great and admirable players becomes even more unpredictable and exciting.impress Inspiration Survey
Listening to the language of these two great players I would expect Murray to score a six and Djokovic two on our inspiration survey. Try it yourself to find out what this means and understand your own innate inspirational quality.Sign up to our free Newsletter
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